Each June, the American Medical Association’s (AMA’s) House of Delegates Annual Meeting is held in Chicago, gathering representatives from various medical state and specialty societies to discuss and develop official policies of the AMA.
At the June 2010 meeting, the AMA House of Delegates, including ACR delegate Gary Bryant, MD, and alternate delegate Eileen Moynihan, MD, discussed the recently passed healthcare reform law and how the organization should proceed to ensure that provisions are supportive of all physicians and patients. Throughout the meeting, the AMA message resonated, “what was included was a good start, especially in the area of patient protection and expansion of coverage, but work is needed going forward to fix key areas such as the Sustainable Growth Rate [SGR], electronic health records, meaningful use, and a new independent oversight panel,” says Dr. Bryant. “This all underscores that health system reform is a journey, not a destination.”
In addition to healthcare reform, the SGR remained at the forefront of the discussions. Each delegate and alternate delegate received a symbolic white coat and a Sharpie to write a message to Congress regarding the permanent repeal of the SGR. The coats were delivered later that week to U.S. Senators and Representatives from their physician constituents. During the meeting, the fate of the 21% cut and the flawed SGR formula was still in doubt. Days later, on June 24, Congress finally passed legislation that provided a 2.2% increase in reimbursement retroactive to June 1 through November 30 of this year.
It is highly unlikely that Congress will take any action on a permanent fix prior to the November elections. However, lobbying efforts will continue through the fall to ensure physicians are not left in limbo. The ACR and the AMA are actively engaged in these lobbying efforts and will continue to mobilize the grassroots through November.
Rheumatology representation at the AMA House of Delegates, although small, is critical to ensure that our voices are heard and policy decisions are made to benefit and protect our specialty. The ACR will maintain its delegate and alternate delegate as long as ACR members continue their membership in the AMA. In addition to representation in the AMA House of Delegates, the ACR has representation on the CPT Editorial Committee and the Relative Value Update Committee. Both are critical in establishing payment policies for all specialties.